The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia

GUILD, COMPANY REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT.

After a six-hour bargaining session today, the Guild reached a tentative agreement with the Company on a three-year contract.

If the agreement is ratified, Guild members’ health coverage would be moved to the Teamsters Vicinity Fund, effective June 1 (or as soon as possible after that.)  Guild members’ health care contributions would remain at current levels ($20 per week for singles; $50 per week for families) for the duration of the deal, assuming rate increases do not exceed 6 percent a year. Employees would be responsible for any increase in excess of 6 percent. The Vicinity Fund averages increases in the 4-6 percent range.

For those Guild members who currently opt out of the current health benefits plan, that will not be an option under the Vicinity Fund. However, the trustees of the fund have agreed to pay those individuals’ single-coverage cost of $20 a week for the first year.

Under the agreement, Guild members would receive a $1,000 signing bonus, but no wage increases (unless members are entitled to step increases.)

As part of the new deal, the Company also would offer a buyout to EDITORIAL Guild members 55 and older with at least 15 years of service. Terms of the buyout are 26 weeks of pay and six months of fully paid COBRA coverage. Employees accepted for a buyout would, at the discretion of their managers, be able to remain on the job up to six months after ratification. The deadline to accept a buyout must be made by May 28.

The Company refused to change its stance on the role of seniority in the event of a layoff. As such, under this contract, layoff decisions would be made based on the following process: “A primary factor to be considered shall be length of service, in addition to performance, qualifications, and skills and abilities.”

Different from the Company’s last proposal, this contract requires the Company pay a penalty to any employee laid off outside of seniority. That penalty is two weeks for each year of service dating from Oct. 10, 2010. That money would be paid on top of severance under the current contract, which is two weeks for each year of service, also dating from Oct. 10, 2010. In total, this new contract would double severance paid by PMN in the event of a layoff outside of seniority.

With hope that the restructuring underway and the implementation of a pay meter will result in improved revenues, the Guild secured the right to request a wage and benefit reopener in 18 months, something we will certainly exercise.

As with the prior contract offer, the Guild Bargaining Committee will hold Q&A sessions on the terms of this tentative agreement next week, with votes expected to be held April 5 and 6. More details on that will come once arrangements are formalized.

This by far is not a perfect contract, but it retains all the good parts of the Company’s previous contract offer and improves slightly on their seniority issue. After heated conversation with new publisher Terry Egger it became clear that he would not move on this issue so we tried to get the deal that would  benefit the majority of our members. We signed our names to this tentative agreement as a show of faith that the focus the next three years will not be on job eliminations but on growth.

In Unity,

Howard Gensler President

Diane Mastrull PMN Unit Chair

Bill Ross Executive Director